Archive | February, 2010

Horseradish Adds Kick to Mac and Cheese

Use a cheddar cheese with horseradish in it.

This is my classic macaroni and cheese with just a bit of a bite from the horseradish to offset the richness,” says chef David Burke in his “New American Classics. “It is, as it has always been, easy to put together. My mom used to do it early in the morning and then throw the casserole in the oven just as we began asking, ‘When’s dinner?’ I can still remember the browning cheesy smell that would fill the house.”

Baked Horseradish-Cheddar Macaroni and Cheese

3 tablespoons melted unsalted butter, divided use
1/2 pound dried elbow macaroni
1 cup milk
2 large eggs, beaten
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
Coarse salt, to taste
Freshly ground pepper, to taste
1 pound horseradish cheddar cheese, grated, divided use

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Using 2 tablespoons of the melted butter, lightly coat a 6-quart casserole. Set aside.

Cook the macaroni according to the package directions. Drain it well and pour into a mixing bowl. Add the remaining butter and toss to coat.

Mix the milk, eggs and nutmeg with salt and pepper in a medium mixing bowl. Add half of the cheese and stir to combine.

Spoon half of the buttered macaroni into the prepared casserole. Pour one half of the milk mixture over the macaroni and toss to combine. Sprinkle half of the remaining cheese over the macaroni. Combine the remaining cheese with the remaining milk mixture. When well combined, pour it into the casserole. Sprinkle the remaining cheese on top. Place in the oven and bake for about 35 minutes or until the top is crusty and golden brown and the edges are bubbling. Remove it from the oven and serve family style.

Makes 6 servings.

From “David Burke’s New American Classics” by David Burke

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Pairing Beer and Cheese

Pairing Beer and Cheese

When you popped the top on your favorite beer the other night, did you stop to think about the right food to serve  with it?

That’s not a silly question. More and more people are discovering how rewarding it is to match the right beer with all sorts of food.

True, wine aficionados will go on about how a steely Sancerre was created to go with oysters on the half shell or an off-dry Riesling is perfect with spicy Thai cuisine.

But have you ever had an Irish stout, including Guinness, with those oysters? Or a crisp, clean lager, such as Singha, with Thai food?

Exploring the riches to be found by pairing cheese with beer was the topic of a recent seminar at Freetail Brewing Co., 4035 N. Loop 1604 W.

“People automatically assume wine with cheese,” Brewer Jason Davis said. “But most don’t know how good cheese is with beer.”

(Click to enlarge)

So, he started the class off with Capra Honeyed Chèvre from Belgium partnered with his  Rye Wit, a Belgian-style beer with citrus and coriander notes.

“The carbonation helps break through the fat in the cheese  and lets the flavors emerge on the palate,” he said.

The creamy, sweetness of the soft cheese paired well with the acidity of the fruit beer. Other soft cheeses to try include Camembert and Brie, he suggested.

Freetail’s Buffalo Hump IPA, with its sharply hoppy taste, was poured alongside an acidic Denhay Farmhouse Cheddar for a study in contrast. It’s an old-fashioned partnership, part of the traditional ploughman’s lunch, which is still popular in Great Britain.

Jason Davis

This pairing proved to be the most divisive of the three offered. Some in the class found it extremely successful; others felt the strength of the IPA overwhelmed this particular cheese, which could have used a little extra salt.

The salt was found in the Coombe Castle Royal Blue Stilton, the last cheese of the class. Davis had presented it to go with the Old Bat Rastard, a winter warmer that’s full-bodied and slightly bitter. It had a little funky flavor that helped it cozy up to the funkiness of the blue cheese.

Three beers, three cheeses. It was a savory start to a whole new world of pairings. What next? What beer goes with Gruyère?  Or Parmesan? What cheeses goes with amber ale? Sounds like meaningful research to me.

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Ask a Foodie: What to Do With Pistachio Paste?

Ask a Foodie: What to Do With Pistachio Paste?


Pistachio paste is made from pistachios and powdered sugar.

Q. I have some leftover pistachio paste, but I don’t know what to do with it. Any suggestions?

— S.W.

A. Desserts naturally come to mind: cookies, baklava, custard, rice pudding, Indian sweets, actually anything that calls for marzipan or almond paste.

We ran a recipe for a rich pistachio gelato last year that includes the paste. The recipe also tells you how to make this confection, which mixes the nuts with powdered sugar.

You could also add it to a sweet-and-savory sauce, such as a mustard dressing in place of honey, and pour it over pork tenderloin or roast chicken.

If you have a question for a foodie, please e-mail

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Broiled Seafood Steaks With Basil Butter

Broiled Seafood Steaks With Basil Butter

Top your seafood steak with basil butter, then rub in bread crumbs.

Try this recipe with a 1 1/2-inch thick halibut steak or 1-inch salmon or swordfish steaks. Be prepared for your fire alarm to react to the broiler.

Broiled Seafood Steaks With Basil Butter

4 (6- to 7-ounce) seafood steaks (halibut, swordfish or salmon)
Coarse salt, to taste
Freshly ground white pepper, to taste
Olive or vegetable oil
About 4 tablespoons Basil Butter, at room temperature
About 4 teaspoons fresh bread crumbs

Basil butter:
1 cup fresh basil
4 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
1/2 garlic clove, minced to a paste with a touch of salt
Freshly ground white pepper, to taste

Once the skillet is hot, add the seafood, butter side up.

Season the seafood with salt and white pepper on both sides. Pour a little oil on a plate and set the fish on top. Smear the top of each piece of fish with about 1 tablespoon of the butter, then sprinkle on about 1 teaspoon bread crumbs and pat them into the butter. You can prep the fish well in advance and refrigerate it until you’re ready to broil.

Set an oven rack in the top position, slide in a cast-iron griddle, and turn on the broiler. Let the griddle heat for 15 minutes.

Se tthe fish onto the griddle, buttered side up. You’ll hear an immediate and very satisfying sizzle. Broil for 6 1/2 to 7 minutes if using halibut, 3 minutes for salmon or 4 1/2 minutes for swordfish. If you’re unsure about the doneness, poke inside with a knife. If should look slightly rare in the center; the carry-over heat will finish the cooking.

Remove the fish with a spatula and let rest for several minutes before serving.

To make the basil butter, blanch the basil for 30 seconds. Drain, then shock in ice water to retain color. Drain again and squeeze the basil dry.

Give the basil a rough chop. Combine the basil, butter, garlic paste and pepper in a food processor until smooth. Wrap in plastic wrap or aluminum foil and refrigerate until firm.

Makes 4 servings.

From “Fish Without a Doubt” by Rick Moonen and Roy Finamore

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What’s Trendy in Prepared Food? Ask Ben E. Keith

What’s Trendy in Prepared Food? Ask Ben E. Keith

The food distributor Ben E. Keith filled the San Antonio Convention Center Wednesday with an array of the latest in prepared foods, from appetizers and corn dogs, fried sweet potatoes and deep-fried green beans, tamales and French pastries to fried catfish and marinated steaks.

The annual gathering, from one of the largest full-service, institutional distributors in the nation, also showcased new appliances, packaging and equipment for restaurants and other food service businesses.

Schwan’s Foods was offering tastes of their new pizza with a whole grain crust; Bueno Foods passed out tamales, while another booth showed off a new breakfast product: a pancake rolled around a sausage on a stick, dipped in a cornmeal batter and deep fried. Blue Bell offered ice cream and frozen novelties, including a new Neapolitan ice cream sandwich.

Lamb Weston, one of the largest purveyors of potatoes in the world, put out a plateful of french fries to show how they held up under the hot lamps (very well), and their sweet potato fries. “One of the biggest trends today is the sweet potato. We believe in sweet potatoes so much we’re building a sweet potato plant in Louisiana,” said a representative at the booth.

Matthew and Mark Seiler of Maine Root

Matthew Seiler of Maine Root sodas offered samples of his root beer, ginger brew, sarsaparilla and more, all made with organic evaporated cane juice imported from Paraguay. In six years, his lineup has gone from his home state clear across the country. “We’re nationwide now,” he said. (One restaurant that sells Maine Root Ginger Brew is Romeo’s Italian Grill & Bar, 115 N. Loop 1604 E.)

It may seem odd to showcase Pioneer products in the company’s hometown, but not everyone knows the extent of its lineup, said Kelly Crull, who is in charge of foodservice sales for South Texas. “Sure, they know our pancakes, our biscuits and our gravy,” he said. But they might not know the company’s line of sauces, including a cheese sauce that could be turned into a cheese ball.

The event wasn’t all about prepared foods, however.

A stage at the center of the hall was used for demonstrations, talks and a chef competition.

Robb Walsh (left) and Chef Scott Cohen (right) discussing oysters.

One of the speakers was cookbook author and food critic Robb Walsh, who discussed Texas oysters with chef Scott Cohen of Pavil and Watermark Grill. Walsh later autographed copies of his book, “Sex, Death and Oysters,” which tells of his lengthy love of the tasty bivalves. He also had the galley proofs of his latest book, “The Tex-Mex Grill and Backyard Barbacoa Cookbook,” which is due out in May from Broadway Books.

Each of the events on the stage was broadcast on big screen TVs that could be seen throughout the hall as well as on KeithTube, the company’s new method of using video to showcase products and techniques to customers and consumers.

Jim Smith, a market manager for General Mills, took to the stage to discuss how restaurants can better market their products, from being involved in their neighborhoods to making use of social media.

Restaurants need to use new ways to get the word out about their business. “It’s not by word of mouth anymore, it’s with Facebook, e-mail and Twitter,” he said.

Listening from a table near the stage, restaurant owner Charlie Gonzalez, who owns Chentes Mexican restaurant in Alice, said he was getting  good information from the presentation.

“Nowadays,” he said, “everything is helpful.”

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WalkerSpeak: When Good Wine Goes Bad

WalkerSpeak: When Good Wine Goes Bad

My husband, David, was driving back from Austin a couple of weeks ago and stopped into a wine store to check out the bargains on his way home.

He brought with him two half-bottles of a respectable Chateauneuf du-Pape, vintage 2004, and we opened one. It was very good.  So, on his next trip to Austin he said he’d picked up more of the famous Rhone red wine since the closeout price was an amazing $2.99 a half bottle.

This time he bought more than just two bottles. But when we opened another a few days later, the odor of badly corked wine assaulted our noses instead of the rich aromas we’d enjoyed previously.

Was this a case of “you get what you pay for”?

As I got a fresh glass and poured a different wine, my first thought was that this bottle might be an indication of why the wine was so way-on-sale. Maybe there had been a flurry of complaints at some point, hurrying the remaining inventory on its way to the bargain bins.

Or, was it just proof of the assertion that out of, say, 100 bottles with cork closures, 3-4 are likely to be bad? (Some say as many as 10 will be bad, but there are no statistics to support the statement.)

It is true that half bottles, at 13.5 fluid ounces, age more quickly than full bottles.  This is partly because the size of the cork and neck on a half bottle, and the amount of empty space between cork and wine inside the bottle,  is the same as those on a regular, 27-fluid-ounce bottle. That means the same amount of oxygen is working on half the amount of wine.

But, would corked wine be the result of the relatively higher ratio of air to wine? Isn’t this fault the result of a tainted cork?

We called Don White at Seazar’s Fine Wine & Spirits, 6422 N. New Braunfels Ave., to hear his thoughts.

“That seems to indicate the cork was at fault, unless it was a batch problem,” said White.  “If it was a batch problem, you could get a whole case of wine that had matterized.”  Also, he noted, half bottles wouldn’t necessarily have a higher rate of corkage than whole bottles.

Discussing vintage, White noted that while 2004 wasn’t considered a great year in the Rhone, where this wine was made, it was considered a classic year. A full bottle of Chateauneuf Du Pape would do well with 10 years of aging. This half bottle, at 6 years old, was probably just at the peak of its drinkability.

Considering the price and the fact that it was only a bottle that was bad (so far) we already knew we were well ahead of the game, as White noted.

“You got the wine at way below cost, so if you get a bad bottle or two, just write it off. But I wouldn’t plan a party around it,” White added.

Another point or two…

Thanks to my favorite wine guru, Jancis Robinson, I learned a new wine word today: ullage. Not a term one hears everyday, whether you’re a wine geek or not. “Ullage” is the word for that space I referred to earlier, the trapped air in the neck of the closed bottle between the cork and the wine.

A point on wine ettiquette: If you have ordered a wine at a restaurant and it is corked or otherwise flawed, the sommelier will be happy to open another bottle of the same wine or another wine entirely. If the sommelier opens the wine and you decide that you just don’t like it, however, that’s too bad. You should not expect the sommelier to bring you something else and not charge for the opened bottle.

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Want a Great Wine? Check Out the KLRN Winners

Want a Great Wine? Check Out the KLRN Winners

Wine lovers, it’s time to stock your cellars. The winners of this year’s KLRN Wine Competition have been announced.

This year, the best in show winners went to a robust Texas red and an icewine made with the uncommon grape Vidal. The champions are the Becker Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve Wilmeth Vineyard 2007 and the Jackson Triggs Vidal Ice Proprietor’s Reserve 2007.

The judges sampled more than 500 wines and awarded about 300 gold, silver and bronze medals. The wines were from all over the world, from Spain and Italy to Canada and Australia.

In the end, medals went to a host of well-known wineries, including Trinchero, Sutter Home, Rodney Strong, Franciscan, Banfi and Marques de Riscal.

In addition to Becker Vineyards, Texas wineries to win medals include Brennan Vineyards, Dry Comal Creek, Flat Creek Estate, Grape Creek, Haak, Kiepersol Estates, Llano Estacado, McPherson Cellars, Mandola, Messina Hof, Pillar Bluff, Singing Water, Sister Creek, Texas Hills Vineyard and Water 2 Wine.

For a complete list, click on the PDF link below.

KLRN Wine Competiton – 2010 Medalits

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Griffin to Go: Getting Dirty

Griffin to Go: Getting Dirty

When I was growing up, one of the last things I wanted to do was work in the garden.

For decades now, my parents have planted an annual garden, filled with lettuces, radishes, tomatoes, squash, cucumbers, onions, garlic, corn, kohlrabi and the like, in addition to the fruit bushes laden with raspberries, red currants, strawberries, figs and more. Since I moved away, they have added apple, nectarine and pear trees, all of which can thrive in the Louisville, Ky., climate.

But the idea of digging up earth to plant seeds or, worse, to weed around the tender young shoots was, as a city kid, my idea of torture. I loved the food, mind you, especially those white icicle radishes with their lively bite and the salads made of oak leaf lettuce; I just never wanted to have to work for it.

I certainly didn’t want to get my hands filthy from all that mud. Who knew was crawling in all that dirt! I was never one to play with earthworms or bugs beyond the lightning bugs that sparkled each summer evening.

Times change, and people change.

Over the past few years, I have been planting more and more herbs in pots. Basil, thyme, sorrel, rosemary, chives, lovage – you name it. Last year, I added peppers and tomatoes to the mix, but everything was largely in pots. Why?

Pots are easy. If a plant dies, you just pull it out of the dirt and start all over.

And many of my plants don’t make it. Friends claim I have a black thumb. I prefer to think of myself as a Darwinian farmer. I’ve taken the time to plant the plant, but if it doesn’t survive on its own, then that the plant’s fault.

Last year, I began to change my mind. I was going figure out ways to make my plants healthier. I gave them compost plus rich soil that worked into the clay. I also learned when to water many of them. Some, like the sorrel, got water sometimes twice a day in the nasty heat; others got water every other day.

The recent deep freezes took a few of the herbs, including the thyme, the basil and mostly likely the lemon grass. But others, including the mint, are already starting to come back.

Yet I want to go further.

This weekend, I dug up a chunk of my backyard and dug in both hands to work through some of the muddy clumps. I rejoiced in the sight of all the worms and crawly things in the rich soil under the layer of grass that died in last year’s scorching heat. Digging up the soil didn’t break my back and I was finished a lot quicker than I thought I would be. Of course, my MP3 player helped.

Planting seeds has changed somewhat since I was a kid. Ferry-Morse seed company now offers something called planting strips. Forgive me if I am as out-of-date on these things as George H.W. Bush was when he first encountered a bar code scanner, but I had no idea you could by seeds already spaced out and placed inside a strip. Simply plant the strip in the soil as deep as the package says and wait. The lettuce strips should sprout within seven to 10 days, the package promises.

But I didn’t stop there.

I had to plant some old-fashioned seeds, which were for arugula and radishes, the latter of which remains a favorite food and one that is better when just picked.

I also picked up some tomato plants, not to plant in the soil but to do something the Bexar County Master Gardener Hotline calls “potting up.”

“Do you believe homegrown tomatoes are superior to store bought?” David Rodriguez, Texas Agrilife Extension service horticulturist for the county, writes in a handout I picked up at the stock show recently. “If so, February is the time for you to ‘pot up’ your spring tomatoes.”

What is this exactly? “Planting tomato transplants into containers to take advantage of growth and still be able to protect them from cold weather,” Rodriguez explains. “Until mid-March or the first of April when the weather stabilizes enough to place the transplants in the vegetable garden or plant them in large containers with a 16- to 20-inch diameter.” (Think of the forecast that it will drop below freezing on Tuesday.)

For more information on potting up or starting your own garden, call the Master Gardener Hotline at (210) 467-6575 or click here. And don’t be as silly as I was all these years. Yes, I now have a speck or two of dirt under my nails, but that will disappear with the help of a nail file. But it’s worth price to get my own fresh vegetables.

Get your kids involved, too. They may not thank you now, but they should eventually.

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Make Cream Scones or Add a Host of Flavors

Make Cream Scones or Add a Host of Flavors

These scones are flaky and just slightly sweet, which makes them an ideal starting point for strawberry shortcake, writes Cindy Mushet in “The Art & Soul of Baking.”

“Feeling adventurous? You can adapt these scones to your taste by adding flavorings to the dough, such as citrus zest, spices, chopped and toasted nuts, flavoring extracts or oils, and dried fruit,” she writes.

But don’t let them sit around too long. As Mushet says, “Once baked, serve the scones within 2 hours, when they are at their freshest and most appealing. Keep them uncovered at room temperature until serving time.”

Cream Scones

2 cups flour
½ cup sugar
2 ½ teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
4 ounces (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch cubes
1 cup chilled heavy whipping cream
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon sugar, or for more crunch and a touch of brown sugar flavor, 2 tablespoons turbinado or raw sugar

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees and position an oven rack in the center. Line the baking sheet with parchment paper or a thin silicone mat. Place the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in the bowl of the food processor and process for 10 seconds to blend well. Add the cold butter pieces and pulse 5 times at 1-second intervals, or until the butter is cut into medium pieces. Add the cream and pulse another 20 times, or until the dough holds together in small, thick clumps. Use a spatula to scrape the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Gently squeeze the clumps together until they form a cohesive dough.

Pat the dough into a circle 7 inches in diameter and about 1 inch thick. Use a chef’s knife to cut the dough into 8 equal wedges and transfer to the prepared baking sheet, spacing them about 2 inches apart.

Brush the tops with a thin coating of the lightly beaten egg (you will not use all the egg). Sprinkle evenly with the sugar. Bake the scones for 14 to 16 minutes, until firm to the touch and golden brown. (See note at bottom.) Transfer to a rack and let cool for 5 minutes. Serve the scones warm or at room temperature.

Do ahead: Once the sough is prepared and cut, the wedges (without the egg brush) can be covered with plastic wrap and refrigerated for up to 24 hours. Brush with egg shortly before baking. The scones won’t rise quite as high as when freshly mixed, but they will be attractive and tasty.

The dough can also be cut and frozen for up to 1 month. Place the wedges on a baking sheet and freeze until hard, about 1 hour. Transfer to a resealable plastic freezer bag. To bake, thaw overnight in the refrigerator, then place on the prepared baking sheet and proceed with egg brush and sugar sprinkle before baking. Or thaw at room temperature on the prepared baking sheet for about 20 minutes, until cool to the touch but no longer hard in the center.


Chocolate Cream Scones: Use only 1 ¾ cups flour and add ¼ cup unsweetened Dutch-processed cocoa powder to the flour mixture. Increase the sugar to 1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon.

Lemon-Poppy Seed Scones: Add ¼ cup poppy seeds and the finely grated zest of 2 large lemons to the flour and sugar mixture. Bake for 17 to 20 minutes (this dough is a bit thicker than the original so it will take a couple extra minutes to bake).

Cream Scones with Currants: Add ½ cup dried currants after the butter has been cut into medium pieces the size of large peas, and just before adding the cream. (Make sure the dried fruit is moist and pliable. If it isn’t, pour boiling water over the currants and let them soak for 5 minutes. Drain them, pressing out any excess moisture; then pat dry and let cool before adding to the dough.) Bake scones for 17 to 20 minutes (this dough is a bit thicker than the original so it will take a couple extra minutes to bake).

Cream Biscuits: This is a savory version, perfect for the dinner table. Omit the sugar and follow the recipe as direct for light, tender biscuits.

Chile, Cheddar and Cornmeal Biscuits: These can also be cut into 1-inch rounds and filled with thinly sliced ham, sweet-hot mustard and watercress, or other small greens for a fun, crowd-friendly hors d’oeuvre. To vary the flavor of the biscuits, add a handful of chopped fresh herbs, fresh corn kernels, crispy bacon bits, several finely chopped scallions or flavorings of your choice (add just after you finish cutting in the butter and right before you add the cream).

Reduce the flour to 1 ½ cups and add 1/3 cup of fine yellow cornmeal. Omit the sugar. Increase the baking powder to 1 tablespoon, the salt to ½ teaspoon, and add 10 grinds of black pepper. Decrease the butter to 3 ounces (3/4 stick). Add 2/3 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese and 2 tablespoons diced roasted poblano chiles (fresh or canned). Pat into an 8-by-4-inch rectangle, about 1-inch thick. Cut in half lengthwise and then into quarters crosswise to form 8 (2-inch) squares. Just before baking, brush the top with egg and sprinkle and additional 1/3 cup grated cheese over the top. Bake 15 to 18 minutes.

[amazon-product]0740773348[/amazon-product]Note: My oven is apparently warmer than Mushet’s. I tried the Lemon-Poppy Seed Scones, and they baked at 425 in less than 14 minutes. So you may want to set your timer a little ahead of time and monitor for the last few minutes. But the end result was quite good with jam, clotted cream or butter, and a cup of tea.

Makes 8 scones.

From “The Art & Soul of Baking” by Cindy Mushet

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Paella Cook-Off at Pearl, Iron Chef-style

Paella Cook-Off at Pearl, Iron Chef-style

The first-ever Cocina de las Americas, a one-day community event, will be held on the grounds of the Pearl, 312 Pearl Parkway, on March 14.  Chefs will vie for a prize, competing Iron Chef style, to make the best Spanish Paella, the country’s famous rice dish.

H-E-B/Central Market are presenting sponsors of this community event, in partnership with the Culinary Institute of America.  Co-chairs of the event are Chef Johnny Hernandez of True Flavors and Dya Campos, Director of Public Affairs for H-E-B.  The San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and New World Wine and Food Festival also are supporting and promoting the event.

The public is invited to enjoy live entertainment and sampling of food from Spain, including sangria, Spanish hams and cheeses and an array of tapas, or Spanish small plates, prepared by CIA San Antonio students.

All food and beverage stations will be located in the Fountain Plaza. Live entertainment will be in the Main Stage Train area.

Chefs will compete with a full pantry of ingredients while guests can watch the cooking action in full swing.

Proceeds from ticket sales will go toward scholarship opportunities to the CIA San Antonio to benefit local chefs.  A portion of proceeds will also go to the San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and the Office of the Honorary Council to Spain for educational initiatives benefiting San Antonio students.

Admission to the festival is $40. Doors open to the public at 11 a.m., judging is at 1:45 p.m. and the event ends at about 4 p.m. Tickets are $40; $20 ages 21 and under. Tickets can be purchased online at and

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